Maxwell Hill, May 2017

Note: click on any picture to enlarge it.

Maxwell Hill is one of the oldest hill resorts in Malaysia. Development started in the 1880’s with the construction of a number of colonial bungalows for government officers. One bungalow, the Nest, was privately built in 1887 and from 1904 it was used as a retreat by the Methodist Church of Malaysia. About half a year ago this bungalow got new tenants,  Suet Fun and her husband Peter, friends of us, and we were eager to visit them and see how they had changed in a very short time the look and feel of the place.

An Ipoh friend of us, Hong, and his niece Karen were also interested, so we booked accommodation for two nights and met at the jeep station at 2:30 pm for a roller coaster ride up the hill. The jeep took us to Speedy’s bungalow where Suet and Peter were already waiting for us. From Speedy it is a few hundred meter walk to the Nest

It was a warm welcome with a glass of fresh hill water. Suet explained a bit about the history of the place and showed us around the bungalow.

I had never been in the Nest before, apparently it was catering for large groups, bunk beds, rather basic. The transformation had been amazing, as if you suddenly were taken back many decades to the past. I hope the few pictures below give an impression. The Nest has become a place to relax and enjoy, good that we had booked two nights.

The rest of the afternoon we spent around the bungalow, enjoying the changing weather, sometimes mist and clouds, sometimes quite clear. Refreshing temperature.

We could not see Taiping town itself, the left picture shows deep down the reservoir belonging to the Spritzer Eco Park and far away the Straits of Melaka. The mountain in the right picture is Gunung Bubu, about twenty km away!

Recently we have bought a drone and this was a good time to test it and take videos of the Nest and the surroundings.

The wind was quite strong, Aric was a bit worried that the drone might be blown away, but it landed nicely in frond of his feet.

Superior  technology

Here is a compilation of the videos taken that afternoon.

In the meantime Suet and Peter were busy with preparations for the dinner. And what a dinner it was! Peter is a Kelabit from Bario, they have also a house there, and one of the dishes was bamboo chicken. I don’t remember the names of the other dishes, but it was delicious. We had dinner outside at the monumental table on the bungalow terrace.

And then there was Antong coffee in the living room near the fireplace where Peter had lit a cosy wood fire. Life can be good…:-)

After a windy night, we woke up with a blue sky.

We had breakfast with French toast and Bario pineapple jam. Then it was time to take more pictures.  A stick insect was exploring my breakfast plate and in the grass a swallowtail moth (Lyssa Zampa) was looking (in vain) for shelter

The Hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia and you find them everywhere, but notice in the picture the grass and small herbs surrounding it. There was hardly a bush visible, it almost looked like the flowers came straight from the earth…:-)

We decided to take a morning stroll down to Speedy. Looking back we saw the Nest in all its glory.

Just before we reached Speedy, there was a large level field, with a nursery. In the past this has been a tennis court!. We found a nice ginger species.


Speedy recalled sweet memories, but also made me sad. In 2004 I celebrated my 60th birthday there with friends, when Guna was the caretaker of the bungalow. Later  it was decided to transform this bungalow into an Center for Biological Diversity. A failed project, as was to be expected in view of the limited accessibility. Now it is empty, unlocked. Sad. Compare the present situation with my birthday party, 13 years ago

Guna (yellow shirt) had prepared a nice barbecue.  How time flies.

The view from Speedy is still fascinating

Walking back to the Nest, Hong and I discovered an overgrown trail, leading steep up the slope. Hong knew that there should be another bungalow, between Speedy and the Nest, the Hugh Low bungalow. We scrambled up the trail, got scratched by many thorns and indeed, we found the remains of the bungalow!  We ventured inside, very carefully

Here are a few more pictures of your exploration. A very satisfactory mini-expedition!

In the afternoon we had quite heavy rain, very refreshing, suitable for a nice nap…:-)

In the meantime other guests had arrived.  Suet had decided to serve a banana leaf dinner and asked for our help to prepare the table.

Not only did it look splendid, the food was also delicious.

Moths were attracted by the bright light

There was another reason why Hong and I wanted to visit Maxwell Hill. Wan Amril, a friend of us, who is very knowledgeable about everything related to Taiping, had told us about a memorial stone for J.W.W Birch, the first British Resident of Perak, appointed in 1874 and murdered in 1875. He had “discovered” this stone eight years ago on the top of Birch Hill, one of the hills forming Maxwell hill. Read his fascinating report The Forgotten Memorials . Wan Amril manages nowadays the Cafe Bukit Larut at the 6th mile and he was willing to guide us to this memorial stone.

The next morning we thanked Suet and Peter for their hospitality and met Wan Amril at Speedy. From there we walked along the jeep track until near the first telecom tower at Birch Hill. There a vague trail took us after a few hundred meters to the stone

Here we have reached the stone. Mission accomplished!

As you can see a mistake has been made with the inscription. The name of the Resident was J.W.W Birch, not T.W.W Birch. Why this mistake? Another question is, did Birch really climb this hill? He was appointed as Resident, 4 November 1874 and murdered 2 November 1875. Did he have time in that year to climb this mountain?

Maybe an answer to this last question can be found in the Journals he kept in the period 1874-1875. They have been published and the National Library in Kuala Lumpur has copies. I will try to borrow one.

The plaque to the right is much more recent. Difficult to decipher, but according to Wan Amril’s report it says that on 23-7-73 at 8:02  the Raja Muda of Perak has visited this memorial stone.

We walked back to the jeep track and continued to the main telecom towers, a few hundred meter further at Caulfield Hill, slightly higher than Birch Hill. It is out of bounds, but a friendly security guard let us in, so we could take some pictures of the Cottage, the first bungalow of Maxwell Hill, built in 1884. Now used by the guards

Walking back we admired the beautiful nature, like this impressive tree

We saw an ant nest and tree fruits. It was a very rewarding hike.

From Speedy we drove down with Wan Amril to the 6th mile, where his cafe is located and many of the other bungalows

Some of the bungalows are in good condition, like Beringin (left), the Cafe (right) also looks good. Other bungalows are more rundown, or even ruined. Pity

After lunch in the Cafe, Wan Amril drove us back to the jeep station. Many thanks for his hospitality!

Here is a GE map of the winding road up Maxwell Hill, with the location of the various points of interest.   

I am looking forward to come back to the Nest!

26 thoughts on “Maxwell Hill, May 2017

  1. Beautiful write up n a legacy is being kept alive by passion of the people who remembers Maxwell hill n all the colonial bungalows , for Suet n Peter you have done a splendid job maintaining the rich heritage of the Nest. It’s a beautiful nature reserve unspoilt. For Taiping Lang like us, we feel b proud of Maxwell hill. We grow up climbing those hills

  2. Very fascinating and interesting facts.
    On the sad note the state government ignorance to save guard the hill is unpredictable. Funds allocated for further projects is at stake.
    Perseverance on this hill is uncertain.

  3. A terrific write up on Maxwell hills. I’ve been there & have fallen in love with the place numerous times but could never write an article this interesting about it

  4. Thank you for the sentimental reminder of good old Maxwell’s Hill. Born and raised in Taiping, Maxwell’s was one of our favourite camp site during our scouting days, namely Tea Garden (about 3-31/2 miles up). Hiking up and down Maxwell’s was a normal past time for many and the bungalows were warmth and well kept! The Rest House had a quaint cafe run by a Hainanese couple and their food was excellent! So sad to see all that going into ruins but thank you Suet & Peter for all your effort to bring back glory to this beautiful hill resort. God bless you both.

  5. Thank you Peter & Suet for this fantastic article. I too was born and raised in Taiping, now in Australia. I would love to visit it this year and so glad to know that it is still worth visiting. Thanks once again.

    • A lovely write-up. Maxwell Hill was just a hill for hiking as a girl guide. This story makes the place a real treasure.

  6. Many of the Rest Houses are in the ruins including those up the hills. I do not understand why MPT is not contracting these buildings to the private people or contractors to take care. Really sad to see the state of affairs.
    Please put polical issues aside & not let Taiping be a forgotten place.

  7. Thanks, Jan. Excellent observations and awesome photography that makes this beautifully written article such a delight to read and warms the heart.

    For Taipingites, Maxwell’s Hill holds fond memories of a heaven on earth. We are indeed blessed.

    Thank you Suet n Peter for creating the opportunity for us to walk down memory lane to relive some of the old world charm!

    Jan, you’re the best! Hope to see u some time soon.

  8. Me and my wife was really looking forward to visit Maxwell Hill. But was told that it no longer is in operations. Was surprised to see this then. How can one book this place and who is the contact?

  9. Great write up of your trip up Maxwell Hill. I stayed at the Rest House in 1963 or 1966 – I can’t remember which one but I have a photo with the view over Taiping. Great memories!

  10. I used to spend vacations with my dad, the former Raja Muda of Perak, on Maxwell’s Hill. We stayed at Rumah Angkasa. He loved his morning walks, all the way past The Box (which was reserved for the Sultan of Perak) and up to the army camp. I’m surprised they actually erected a plaque to commemorate his visit !

  11. What a fabulous tale of a wonderful stay on Maxwell Hill! I’ll write to Hong and tell him I read it and loved it! THank you!

  12. Never expected to see this from maxwell hill. It’s a real eye opener for me. Looking forward for a worthy trip there soon. Please forward me the contact. Also a big round of applause to those who posted. Thank you very much.

  13. A big THANK YOU to you, Jan, for such a well documented account of your recent stay up Maxwell Hill. You have helped to promote our much loved hill resort to the rest of the world!
    Syabas! also to Suet Fun and Peter for all your hardwork to turn Nest Bungalow into such a cosy and exotic hideaway in the clouds!

  14. Jan, a well researched & written article on your recent trip up Bukit Larut. Interesting reading! Tq for sharing.

  15. Wow, what a great trip! That’s the first time I’ve heard of the Birch memorial stone. And the Nest looks great.

  16. Fantastic. Very well written and it goes to show that we have people who really care for our surroundings. Kodos.

  17. Nest was my home since my birth in Mar 1950 to Jan 1959.My parents were caretakers of Nest until my father died in Oct 1958.I stayed and studied at St. Georges and King Edward in Taiping until 1968.
    In Mar 1969 I joined the Royal Military College .
    The Nest brings back fond memories of my childhood days in Nest.
    I may be able to contribute some information on Maxwells Hill in general and Nest in particular while I can still remember. My email is below:

  18. Suet Fun was my neighbour at 145 lorong creagh.I was at 146.My name is,Raja,congrats to Suet Fan and Peter for a,fantast job at Nest

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